Imperative National Requisite

How astounding it was that after writing in this column on Dr Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, regarded as the ‘missile man of India,’ who strongly advocates an action plan to develop his Motherland into a knowledge super power and to a developed nation, I had the rare opportunity of listening to one of our own ‘Action Men’, Dr Ajith C S Perera, giving a live discourse with equal vim and vigour about our own Motherland focusing on the subject, ‘not to miss opportunities in our hands in promoting a sustainable national economy’.

The 90 minute oration was organized at Subud House, Bambalapitiya by a dynamic group of business and professional women who were renowned for their out-and-out dedication on social welfare activities through two tiers of their organization - mature and experienced and the young professional women.

The altruistic projects carried out by this Association over a long period of time by the founder and a long time President of Mrs Bandaranaike ilk are on record to justify any comments.

The ‘Action man’

The ‘Action man’ on the oration, Dr Ajith C S Perera. is a Chartered Chemist by profession who became a victim of paraplegia in 1992 consequent to a natural accident by a tree crashing on to his car during stormy weather.
From 1997 he has been a channel campaigning in Sri Lanka as an ‘accessibility mentor’ on disability issues pioneering and advising how to facilitate environments for everyone.

Senior citizens

Idiriya is a registered charitable organization functioning under Dr Perera’s voluntary direction which focuses on to fill the void in disability issues and to advice, guide, campaign and stimulate interest on this crucial subject with the assistance of a glut of our competent architects, designers and builders to perform a significant task and contribute for ‘designing buildings for enabling all’.

During the stimulating presentation Dr Perera unlocked the minds of the audience highlighting the opportunities that Sri Lanka continues to miss in promoting a sustainable national economy. In ten years time, he prophesised a 50 percent of the population will be senior citizens; an alarming increase in road accidents, man-made and natural disasters, debilitating medical conditions including uncontrollable diabetes are going to add to the responsibilities of the State.

Right now an estimated 15 percent of Sri Lanka’s population lives with an inevitable drop in physical abilities (which includes a fair percentage of dedicated security personnel who fought to save our Motherland over a period of 30 years from a terrorist clutch). Dr Perera looks into the future through microscope with a powerful, magnified lens and says that it is ‘certain to experience at some time in life’ restrictions in our ability in mobility, in sight, hearing as well as in memory. The question is ‘NOT if that happens, but WHEN it happens.’

The quality of life, he perceives, is greatly dependent to the extent where people could make use of buildings, facilities and technology for their indispensable and desirable needs in daily life. With such thoughts he convinces us as to why Sri Lanka should get into the fast track access. His answers are many folds. Firstly, we need to find ways to recognize and re-involve everyone equally in an expansion progression. ‘Designing for inclusion’ is the effective way to arrest waste and make everyone ‘equal partners’ in development, he asserts.

Accessibility minimizes unwanted dependencies, reduces poverty through enhanced employment opportunities and has the potential to make everyone productive. It promotes everyone equally to be as independent as possible with dignity in attending to daily activities, such as banking, shopping and recreation.

Public buildings

Accessibility when established specifically in complying with clear and definite standards for all, building components, TOILETS in particular, will promote safety and enhances physical as well as mental well-being of everyone. These are essential prerequisites for national development and sustainable national economy. Business professionals should make certain that access to all business premises should be open to the public need in daily life as a ‘welcome all’ gesture and deny none. Every potential customer is a business opportunity, he maintains.

Regulations for access to public buildings and places, gazetted on October 17, 2006 under  reference: 1467/15 which received Parliamentary approval and subsequent Supreme Court endorsement  through its order SCFR 221 / 2009 has made it mandatory for all NEW buildings to comply with legislations and Sri Lanka Standard for building construction. Hence accepting and respecting these becomes a mandatory requirement by Law and a moral duty of every law-abiding citizen in Sri Lanka.

‘Accessibility’ has become a national issue. Effective implementation, barring any discrimination, is what is now crucial. It would make the ‘disadvantaged people’ feel that they too are ‘ equally Able’ and Not ‘Differently able’ and thereby the country and society are certain to benefit immensely.

Social exclusion

Strategic planning by the Government is vital to assist and deliver to the vulnerable society in the next generation. Public Services are at the forefront of the Government’s efforts to reduce social exclusion. If disadvantaged people are to make more choices about what, where, when and how public services are provided then it becomes obligatory to offer them better services that are more effective and relevant to their lives than ever before.
At the same time there needs to be mutual respect between service users and the frontline professionals who are going all out to help them.

So many public services touch the lives of ordinary people and yet the voice of those most vulnerable and reliant on them is rarely heard. Public services are there to serve every section of society and everyone is entitled to expect high quality services that fully address their needs.

November 2010 -  Courtesy: Daily News


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